This is the News in Brief, from the United Nations.
Syria’s warring parties agree to resume talks in Geneva, says UN envoy
Syria’s opposing parties have agreed to resume talks in Geneva over their war-torn country “as soon as” travel restrictions linked to the COVID-19 pandemic allow, UN Special Envoy Geir Pedersen said on Tuesday.
Mr. Pedersen, who was speaking via videoconference from Oslo, also called on Russia and the United States to help bring about a peaceful outcome to the more than nine-year war in Syria that has killed hundreds of thousands and displaced millions.
A possible resumption of UN-led discussions over a new Syrian constitution comes against a backdrop of fears that the fragile truce in Syria could disintegrate at any moment, the envoy said:
“There is a relative calm in Idlib, the ceasefire that Turkey and Russia entered into in the beginning of March is still by and large holding. And I have said that this is indeed good news, but I’ve also warned that hostilities could resume and that would have devastating consequences of course not only in Idlib, but in many other parts of Syria as well.”
To date, the spread of the new coronavirus in Syria has been limited, with most cases in Government-controlled areas and no cases reported in the last opposition-held areas in the northwest.
Bachelet leads appeal for help for South Sudan survivors of sexual violence
The UN’s top rights official Michelle Bachelet has led a call for there to be much greater help for survivors of sexual violence in South Sudan.
In her appeal, the High Commissioner for Human Rights said that treating victims’ physical and psychological wounds gave them a chance to rebuild their lives.
Her comments follow the publication on Tuesday of a report by her office and the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS)
It said that 85 per cent of conflict-related sexual violence cases happened in Unity and the Central and Western Equatorian regions, between January 2018 and January this year.
There is only one health facility per 10,000 people in South Sudan, while more than seven in 10 people live more than five kilometres away from a health centre.
A lack of funding is a major impediment to effective public healthcare, with only 1.2 per cent of the national budget allocated for the whole country – just $14 million.
Sexual violence has been used as a weapon of war in South Sudan since armed conflict began in 2013.
The UN report explained how despite a significant decrease in abuse since the signing of a peace deal in 2018, victims continue to suffer appalling acts of sexual violence that can result in long-term physical harm and mental health consequences.
In 2019 and 2020, the army and police, as well as the pro-Riek Machar Sudan People’s Liberation Army-In Opposition and the National Salvation Front, supported measures to prevent and respond to conflict-related sexual violence.
China urged to lift charges against Tibetan minority human rights defender
Finally, UN-appointed independent human rights experts have urged China to release a Tibetan minority activist who has been detained since September 2018 for public order offences.
They said in a statement that A-Nya Sengdra had been campaigning against alleged corruption, illegal mining and illegal hunting and poaching of endangered animals before he was arrested and allegedly beaten.
Mr Sengdra’s health is reportedly deteriorating, said the experts, who noted that he is awaiting an appeal hearing against his seven-year jail sentence.
Other Tibetan minority representatives from Qinghai province were also charged and given similar jail terms, the nine UN-appointed experts said, before insisting that his situation was linked to a “wider crackdown on Tibetan minority human rights defenders”.
Daniel Johnson, UN News